When the historic Cavalier Hotel opened in 1927, General J. Leslie Kincaid, president of the American Hotels Corporation, proclaimed, “It’s the best resort hotel in America, and I’ve seen them all.” It seemed as if the Cavalier Hotel put Virginia Beach on the map as America’s most popular beach resort destination.
As soon as you see the hotel perched on the hill facing the Atlantic Ocean, you know you have arrived at an extraordinary place. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello was the inspiration for the main entrance with a classic four-column portico and three stone steps.
If you arrive by car, you have the option of valet parking or self-parking. If you are arriving via Norfolk International Airport, you can rent a car or take an Uber to the hotel.
Note: My stay at the Cavalier was hosted. They are all my opinions.
A glamorous past still visible today
I was expecting the Cavalier to be luxurious, I was not disappointed. There’s an elegance that lights up the Cavalier; From the moment I arrived I felt like he was the most important guest in the house. Every detail of the recent restoration meticulously preserved the hotel’s glamorous past, wherever possible. In the Grand Lobby, terrazzo floors, colonial-era millwork, and a detailed plaster rotunda welcome guests. A glass of sparkling wine is offered upon check-in.
Certainly some of the glow from the Cavalier’s golden age lives on. In 1929, when the Cavalier Beach Club opened, it became an esteemed venue for big bands. Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, and Glen Miller performed there. Each performance was broadcast live from coast to coast. It’s easy to imagine dancing the night away to Glen Miller or singer Frank Sinatra.
The Cavalier became a favorite of celebrities and luminaries of arts and letters. Ten American presidents and many icons of the day have stayed at the Cavalier. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda were regulars on a long list of legendary figures who favored the Cavalier, names like Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor.
Pro Tip: Check out the photos of celebrities and other personalities hanging in the hallways on each floor of the hotel.
There were originally 195 rooms, but during the refurbishment the decision was made to have fewer rooms. Today, there are 85 spacious rooms. The décor is fun, stylish, colorful and comfortable, meeting the needs of today’s traveler.
Dining Options at the Cavalier
There are several restaurant options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you won’t go hungry. Tulus is a casual beachside cafe located on the Marriott property across the street. You can enjoy breakfast or lunch in a spacious, light and airy room, or outdoors with a view of the beach.
Becca’s is located in the Cavalier and serves modern garden-to-table cuisine in a beautiful setting. Seafood dishes are a good choice here. Try the oysters with fried green tomatoes and arugula. Becca is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
The Hunt Room at the Cavalier is open for dinner only. Unsurprisingly, the theme here is casual dining in a traditional setting. This is the perfect place for a late night drink and a burger. On weekends, the Hunt Room is open until 1 am.
Located in the Marriott, Orion’s Rooftop is the ideal place to enjoy an elegant dinner with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. There is outdoor seating when weather permits, however most of the tables in the main dining room have ocean views.
I had dinner with friends, so I was able to try several main dishes. I ordered the whole red snapper. Sliced and lightly breaded in cornstarch and then fried, it was light, flaky, and easy to eat, despite looking a little intimidating at first. The cut made it easy to remove chunks of fish and I soon put down the utensils and ate with my fingers. We also tried the sushi freshly made on site, and some of the most delicious pad thai I’ve ever tasted. If you’re a wine lover, keep in mind that Orion’s Rooftop has an extensive list of over 600 bottles.
The Distillery of Tarnished Truth
The Tarnished Truth opened in 2019 as the first distillery inside a hotel. Tarnished Truth produces several different bottles of bourbon along with vodka, gin, and a bourbon cream.
Book a tour of the distillery, it’s fun and educational. I’m not a big liquor drinker, but I did have a tasting after the tour. I loved the cream bourbon, but the namesake Tarnished Truth was also delicious, smooth and a bit smoky.
The distillery’s name is a nod to the stories surrounding the Cavalier. One of the most infamous stories is that former President Richard Nixon burned hours of Watergate tapes in the large fireplace of the Hunt Room. The truth will remain unknown.
If a wellness weekend is more your style, you can pamper yourself at the Seahill Spa. There is a full-service hair and nail salon, sauna, and massage services, as well as facials and other body treatments.
The newly imagined beach club is located across the street and features a private beach with cabanas, towel and umbrella service, a beachside bar, and an infinity pool.
Pro Tips: Any time of year is a good time to visit the Cavalier, but if the weather is nice and less crowded, avoid the summer and go from September to May. The hotel has a shuttle that will drop you off at nearby attractions like the boardwalk. I took the shuttle to the Vibe, a colorful artsy neighborhood, and walked back to the hotel.
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